Monday 31 January 2011

Save Our Libraries Day - Saturday Feb 5th 2011

ReadItDaddy is firstly and foremostly a children's book review website but from time to time I'll be covering book-related news. 

The issue of the government's plans to close down a huge number of local libraries is a shockingly ill-informed decision. Our local library may end up being one of the affected, and without that library this blog most definitely wouldn't exist. 

An action day is taking place across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on Saturday 5th February 2011. The nation's book lovers are encouraged to show their support for their local library by using it on this day. Show the government that this valuable resource should not merely be swept under the carpet or put out to seed in the vain hope that enough kindly volunteers will step in and run library services. The plan is ill conceived and ridiculous in the extreme, and libraries already struggling to maintain a service will be forced to close as a result of this policy. 

Oxfordshire library users will be treated to a passionate speech or three on the matter by bestselling Oxford-based author Phillip Pullman, the genius behind the 'His Dark Materials' books. Pullman is currently raising the profile of the campaign to halt the government's ridiculous plans to sever library services. 

Stand up for your local library. Get bookish on saturday.
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Friday 28 January 2011

The Adventures of the Dish and the Spoon

Mini Grey's books are a real treat. The genius behind Biscuit Bear, Egg Drop and Traction Man turns her attention to the classic nursery rhyme "Hey Diddle Diddle", concentrating on two of its characters, Dish and Spoon. 

No ordinary dinnerware these two, Dish and Spoon are part of a successful double act, travelling the world making people marvel at their antics. 

Their adventures span the globe but life takes a rather tragic turn - and the rest of the book is a bittersweet melancholy lesson on how you should treasure life when life is good.

It's difficult to describe just how Mini Grey puts together a seemingly higgledy piggledy hotch potch of page layouts and knowing references to the original nursery rhyme in such an original way but it's a fantastic book chock full of superb illustrations and storytelling. 

Charlotte's best bit: Poor cracked dish!

Daddy's favourite bit: The classic Dish and Spoon LP at the back (with accompaniment by other characters from the nursery rhyme)

Rating: 5 out of 5

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Baggy Brown

Mick (Wibbly Pig, Spot) Inkpen has produced some of the best loved children's books of the last decade or so. With his characters making the leap to the small screen, it's nice to hunt out some of his less well known books for a quick look. 

Baggy Brown tells the story of a rather special teddy bear, number 1 of a limited edition set of bears. Number 1 is special, as he was made for a royal Princess but after a series of accidents he ends up not in royal hands, but the arms of a very ordinary boy. 

Wrapped around the tale of Baggy's adventures is a superb side story but I won't spoil it for you, it's worth grabbing the book and leafing through yourself to see how much emotion and storytelling can be constructed around a fairly simple tale of a bear. 

If you think you're all burned out on bear books, think again. 

Charlotte's best bit: Seeing the princess's tonsils when she's screaming the castle down

Daddy's favourite bit: Some great expressive work by Inkpen for the human characters in the story. 

Rating: 4 out of 5

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Thursday 27 January 2011

The Duck with No Luck

Oh well, it had to happen sooner or later. The second of our Korky Paul Picture Book reviews for this week isn't quite as successful as Sanji the Baker. If this blog gave separate scores for illustrations and stories, we could just about scrape by giving this top marks for Korky Paul's pictures in the book - but the story is strictly for the birds.

A clumsy, lazy unlikeable duck embarks on a quest to join his duck friends as they fly south for the winter. The Duck with No Luck is an unfortunate feathered friend and ends up getting completely and hopelessly lost as he asks his bird chums for directions in a variety of exotic locations. 

The book's illustrations are ace, as is the cameo from Winnie the Witch's Wilbur (at least that was the only bit Charlotte liked) - but the book seems to dribble along with very little plot (yes it's a children's book but if your toddler starts to yawn and gets you to turn the pages quickly before you've even finished reading each one, you know something's wrong). 

A pity as this was another Korky Paul Picture Book we hadn't seen up till now and could probably have got along fine without seeing, in all honesty. 

Charlotte's best bit: Wilbur sneaking around the bins in one illustration

Daddy's favourite bit: Meagre pickings with this one but I did quite enjoy seeing The Dog Who Could Dig picking over bones with a vulture

Rating: 2 out of 5 (and 5 out of 5 for the pics)

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Sanji and the Baker

Our quest to hoover up every Korky-Paul-Illustrated book on the planet continues, as this week we struck gold at the Library by grabbing one of the few Korky Paul Picture Books we haven't seen yet. 

Sanji and the Baker is excellent, almost like a modern fable. Sanji the down-at-heel travelling adventurer takes up residence above a Baker's Shop. Every morning he wakes up to the delicious smells emanating from the Baker's wares. 

The Baker takes great exception to this and brings Sanji up before a judge for stealing his smells. 

The twist in the story at the end is superb. Even more superb is the fact that the book features a good dose of excellent Korky Paul cameos from various other books he's illustrated (yep, Winnie Witch is in the book as one of Sanji's generous friends). 

A winning attention to detail, a great moral tale and a rather original setting. Brilliant book. 

Charlotte's best bit: Winnie the Witch as a magical money lender

Daddy's favourite bit: Sanji's excellent steampunk smell-grabber

Rating: 5 out of 5

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Richard & Judy-endorse new Kid's Book Club

Richard Madeley and Judy Finnegan are extending their book recommendations to cover children's books, in a partnership with both WH Smith and The Book Trust. 

The initial selection of books carries recommendations from contemporary titles, such as 'Doctor Proctor's Fart Powder' (highbrow stuff) as well as classics like Elisabeth Beresford's 'Wombles' books. 

The aim is a good one - to make more and more parents aware of both the Book Trust, and a selection of new and established writers whose works are worthy of mention in the Richard and Judy 'list'. 

As with the adult book recommendations, a team of individuals work in conjunction with the popular daytime TV presenters to ensure that recommended books meet exacting standards. 

The adult scheme has seen many authors propelled into the best sellers list almost overnight. Anything that generates a huge amount of interest in reading and books can only be a good thing particularly when it's aimed at youngsters. 

More information is available from the Book Trust website:
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Wishmoley and the Little Piece of Sky

A bittersweet little story of a Mole's wonderment at what lies "up there" above the clods of earth. Wishmoley's trip to the outside world sees him bringing back "a little piece of sky" that turns out to be something completely different and unexpected. 

Gorgeous illustrations accompany a tear-jerking tale of how important it is sometimes to come to terms with letting something go that you've nurtured and loved. Have a box of tissues handy. 

Charlotte's best bit: The various underground dwellers and their cool little tunnels and homes

Daddy's favourite bit: The rather sad but very sweet ending. Awww. 

Rating: 4 out of 5

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The master of the surreal, Anthony Browne definitely has a thing about simians. Gorilla follows the story of a young girl who is obsessed with all things Gorilla-shaped. She dreams about Gorillas, draws Gorillas and decorates her room with Gorilla posters. Her father doesn't seem to have time for her or her Gorilla obsession so after a disapointing birthday present, the girl's flight of fancy takes her on a magical trip with a huge friendly ape. 

As ever with Anthony Browne's books, it's not always the story or the main characters that keeps Charlotte entertained, it's all the little details that are going on in the background of each sumptuous illustration. Nods to King Kong, and plenty of fantastic Magritte-derivative work goes into each frame making this yet another winner for youngsters. 

Charlotte's best bit: The Gorilla's big sloppy kiss. 

Daddy's favourite bit: Great homages to Magritte's suited-and-booted surrealist works

Rating: 4 out of 5

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Tuesday 25 January 2011

The True Story of Goldilocks

How did Goldilocks end up breaking into the three bears' house, stealing porridge and wrecking beds? Before Goldilocks was naughty, she was a sweet and polite self-help guru. That's according to Sandro Natalini and Agnezzi Baruzzi's novel retelling of the classic fairy tale. 

We find out that Baby Bear wasn't always a good little bear, Daddy Bear was a bit of a numpty really and Mummy Bear spent rather too much time researching beauty tips. 

The book's illustrations have some excellent card-craft mechanisms to bring the pictures to life. Some younger readers might find some of the interactive papercraft a bit fiddly (and will probably wreck / lose the cool little letters that come with the book) but it's a great twist to the story and a great use of the characters. 

Charlotte's best bit: The Big Bad Wolf appearing in Daddy Bear's newspaper

Daddy's favourite bit: Goldilocks the rough and ready rock chick

Rating: 4 out of 5

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Mr Big

It's not easy being big. Mr Big, a huge hulking great big Gorilla might look scary and daunting but he's an ape with a heart, and a musical soul. 

In this tale, Mr Big is sad, has no friends and only has his music to fall back on. Finding a piano in a music store, Mr Big plays at night, letting his soft tinkling tunes win over the entire city full of people who previously crossed the street to avoid him. 

A great jazz-fuelled book with big bold illustrations. Cool stuff, crazy cat!

Charlotte's best bit: A fascination with Mr Big's feet (which look like hands)

Daddy's favourite bit: Mr Big's tiny beat-poet-styled best friend

Rating: 3 out of 5

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Friday 21 January 2011

Mog on Fox Night

This is the fourth Mog book we've read and Charlotte shows no signs of getting fed up with this egg-obsessed cat. 

Mog is having a tough time at home, and doesn't like the tasty fish or cat food that's laid out for her supper every night. Mog wants eggs, but Mog's family aren't too keen on her scoffing through a dozen a day. 

Mog sulks and during her mopey sojourn in the garden, Mog sees a Fox. 

The rest of the book details Mog's attempts to avoid her Foxy invaders as they take over the garden, and soon also make their way into Mog's house. 

A fun-packed tale that oozes quality just like all the Judith Kerr / Mog books. 

Charlotte's best bit: The fact that Bunny (Mog's pet from another Mog book) makes a cameo appearance. 

Daddy's favourite bit: Mog's rather surreal dream about Mr Johnson stealing all the world's eggs and putting them in a bin bag. 

Rating: 4 out of 5

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Thursday 20 January 2011

Pigeon Street - A Light in the Sky

Kids of the 80s will probably be familiar with the bouncy and rather funky theme tune for Pigeon Street (if you can remember all the lyrics, you're officially old!) Mum recently found a stack of my brother's old books in the loft and this was one of the books that was rescued (you can tell my brother didn't bother with books much, as it was in mint condition). 

Pigeon Street tells the tale of a bunch of everyday characters who live on (yes, you've guessed it!) Pigeon Street. Quite a strange bunch. Each episode collected together a few of the characters with their interconnected lives. 

A Light in the Sky is a cute little tale of the Pigeon Street inhabitants and what happens when they spot a mysterious glowing globe in the sky one day. It's a short and sweet tale and if you've been showing your children the sort of things you used to watch as a youngster (there's a great collection of Pigeon Street episodes on YouTube) then you might want to keep your eyes peeled on car boot / jumble sales for any of the official books because there are quite a few of them, all drawn in the same funky 80s Alan Rogers style. 

Charlotte's best bit: The twins, Molly and Polly

Daddy's favourite bit: Doctor Glossop forgetting to dress for work

Rating: 3 out of 5
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The Great Dog Bottom Swap

Every now and again you happen across a kid's book that makes you think "Wait, WHAT?"
Skimming through the library boxes for new books, I stumbled across The Great Dog Bottom Swap and instantly thought "Well, no, it couldn't possibly be's bottoms could it?"

My initial fears were compounded by a quick flick through the book. In fact I don't think I'd like to spoil the surprise for other parents too much, suffice to say that you'll get to the end of this book and say "Oh, so THAT'S why dogs do that!"

Peter Bently's excellent nonsense rhymes are coupled with Mei Matsuoka's rather too literal drawings but the whole book is a treat. It's just a bit...well, you know. Unsavoury? But if you've got kids at home who think blowoffs, poo and wee jokes are the very nadir of humour, they'll laugh themselves to bits over this book, as we did. 

Charlotte's best bit: The emergency doggie contingency plan for dealing with fires. 

Daddy's favourite bit: The slow realisation that I'm never ever going to eat cheerios ever again. 

Rating: 5 out of 5

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Friday 14 January 2011

Balamory - Travel

As I've said before on this humble blog, TV tie-in books are often hastily thrown together cash-in items that don't really give children much of a flavour of the show they're based on. 

Such is the case with Balamory - Travel, one of a series of paperbacks published off the back of the successful BBC show. Charlotte has seen a few episodes and seems to be pretty familiar with the characters (and their various coloured houses) so this looked worth grabbing. 

The story seems haphazardly based on Josie Jump's attempts to present a compelling travel-based story to the children at Balamory nursery. Aided and abetted by glamorous granny Edie McReadie, Josie puts together a show using an old sledge and some skis. 

The illustrations look vaguely like the characters they're based on (had a bit of a hoot at one point when I mistook Edie's lifejacket for an inappropriately supporting bra - you'll see what I mean on the Waterskiing page). 

Even in cartoon form I've got a soft spot for Miss Hoolie. 

Charlotte's best bit: Not really a big hit with her but she loves Miss Hoolie too. 

Daddy's favourite bit: The aforementioned big saggy boob page

Rating: 1 out of 5

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The bear went over the mountain

The song "The bear went over the mountain" is a particular favourite on one of Charlotte's in-car CDs (other parents will probably be all too familiar with the concept of never being allowed to listen to their own choice of music in the car, and probably have a car cluttered with kid-friendly CDs like mine). 

John Prater's book attempts to story-fy (is that a word? It is now!) the song and of course, it's natural for kids to want the story to follow the rhythmic flow of the song so they can sing along. The story doesn't though, but it's fairly charming nonetheless and definitely one for daddies who remember being clambered over by their toddlers. 

Charlotte's best bit: Baby Bear climbing on Daddy's head. 

Daddy's favourite bit: Baby Bear tickling Daddy's toes. 

Rating: 2 out of 5

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Baby Sister

Despite my protests, Charlotte often latches onto books in the library and won't let them go, leaving poor flustered Daddy to book them out regardless of their suitability. 

Charlotte has previously loved the Usborne Look and Say range of books, and Baby Sister uses the same tried and tested format, with illustrations full of objects (made out of that peculiar Fimo modelling material) for children to point at and name. 

As Charlotte's just beginning to show signs of wanting to read proper letters and characters, books like this may unfortunately end up on the menu more often but the Look and Say range are extremely colourful, very easy to flick through, made of sturdy cardboard and very much of interest to young enquiring minds. 

Charlotte's best bit: For some reason, the night light and mobile tickled her pink.

Daddy's favourite bit: Hot mummy!

Rating: 3 out of 5

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Archie hates pink

Archie doesn't have anything against the outrageous singer of the same name. Nope, Archie really does not like the colour pink. Pink is the colour of nasty medicine, itchy flea powder and scratchy brushes so when Archie's owner paints her whole house pink, Archie leaves home and vows never to return. 

Along the way, Archie is taken under the wing of a mysterious cat named Max, and learns that pink isn't necessarily such a horrible colour after all. 

A cute and colourful tale underpinned by beautifully painted illustrations. Perhaps after reading this book you'll feel a little better about being in the pink too.

Charlotte's best bit: Archie eating prawns

Daddy's favourite bit: Delilah's Archie drawings as she pines for her cat

Rating: 3 out of 5

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I'd rather go to Grandad's

Charlotte knows that the source of the world's Chocolate Button surplus is located at Grandad's house. So we spotted this book that is a cute little tale about a grandchild going off to stay with their adventuresome Grandad at his Lighthouse home. 

The illustrations are absolutely beautiful in this. The text is a gentle rhyming tale that matches the bobbing of the waves in the story. Did you ever dream of spending a night in a hammock, or going fishing out to sea? Then you'll love this nautical-flavoured tale. 

No chocolate buttons were harmed in the making of this book. 

Charlotte's best bit: Kitty going to sleep wearing Grandad's Sailor Hat

Daddy's favourite bit: The quality of the illustrations. 

Rating: 4 out of 5

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Tuesday 11 January 2011

Teeny Tiny Tales

Mum was clearing out her loft and found this long forgotten classic hidden amongst the books. It was a book picked up from one of Nan's endless jumble sale outings and I remember the 11 stories being a haphazard mix of Richard Scarry's excellent drawings coupled with simple tales for younger readers.

The book needed repairs but once it was ship-shape, I let Charlotte loose on it.

She instantly found a couple of favourites among the teeny tiny tales (the sad pony and fishing cat) and it's testament to Scarry's skill that the stories are timeless and still appeal to kids today. 

Charlotte's best bit: Fishing cat ending up getting very wet or Sad Pony going for a ride. 

Daddy's favourite bit: Farmer Junco. 

Rating: 5 out of 5
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Friday 7 January 2011

The Peppa Pig Collection (Ladybird Rucksack Edition)

Charlotte received this collection of Peppa Pig hardback books from friends of ours (Thanks Harvinder and Mohinder!) and they've since been amongst the most read of Charlotte's christmas book gifts. Gathering together ten short but sweet Peppa Pig tales in a handy wearable clear plastic case (that's probably a bit heavy for most toddlers but is extremely useful for keeping the books together and not scattered all over the floor), the books should certainly score a massive hit with your children if they're Peppa Pig fanatics. 

Covering subjects as diverse as Daddy Pig's ridiculous attachment to a smelly old chair, Peppa's first experience with wobbly teeth and George's first visit to the swimming pool, your children will inevitably find a favourite amongst the collection.

Charlotte's best bit: She's absolutely obsessed with "The Tooth Fairy" to the point where she's almost wishing she had wobbly teeth.

Daddy's favourite bit: Daddy Pig thinking he's scored a bargain at the school Jumble sale. 

Rating: 5 out of 5

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Holly: The Story of a Cat

Ruth Brown is a cat lover, and her book (based on her own experiences of housing a rescued kitten) is a joy for any feline fans. Brown has captured the essence of moggy-dom perfectly, and she uses her masterful artwork and gentle storytelling to good effect, detailing the life and times of her own beloved Holly (named because she arrived in the Brown household at Christmas). 

There are so many kids books devoted to cats, but this is rather special and sentimental. 

Charlotte's best bit: Acrobatic Holly

Daddy's favourite bit: The neat Holly / Cat wrapping-paper end paper design of the book. 

Rating: 4 out of 5

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The Princess and the Wizard

Julia (The Gruffalo) Donaldson and Lydia (What the Ladybird Heard) Monks team up for a classic children's fairy tale that feels fairly familiar at first, but will soon be adored by younger toddlers thanks to the neatly illustrated panels (which help teach younger children colours) and the rhyming couplets dotted throughout the text. 

Each page is encrusted with glittery tactile surfaces for younger children to touch and feel. A great tale that could become something of a bedtime classic. 

Charlotte's best bit: The wizard's slimy bathroom covered in toothpaste

Daddy's best bit: Monks' illustrations, cute and superbly done

Rating: 4 out of 5

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Thursday 6 January 2011

A Cat Called Scratch

Take one cat, with one rather irritating flea and one particular favourite artist with an equally scratchy inkpen and you've got a recipe for genius. Korky Paul teams up with author Jonathan Long for a superb rhyming book chock full of trademark KP illustrations that are a joy to pick your way through. 

It's almost impossible to read without feeling slightly itchy though, so be warned. Some absolutely superb cameos (even from Winnie Witch, who doesn't normally appear in any other Korky Paul illustrated collaborations). 

Charlotte's best bit: By far, Winnie Witch's hairdo after a tussle with Tessa the Hairdresser. 

Daddy's favourite bit: Same as Charlotte, great cameos also from Professor Puffendorf, the Dog who could Dig and the Dinosaur Lady from TDWCD. 

Rating: 5 out of 5

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Tuesday 4 January 2011

Fairies and Magical Creatures - a Pop Up Book

What an astonishing book. 

Given to Charlotte as a christmas present, Fairies and Magical Creatures is literally brimming with detailed illustrations and some of the best papercraft I've ever seen in a pop-up book. From the fluttering wings of Titania, Queen of the Fairies (as seen in the illustration accompanying this review) to the fantastic little pop-out panels (multiple layered panels in some cases) on every page, Fairies and Magical Creatures gives some of the history behind the "little folk" scattered throughout the different cultures and legends of the world. 

A thoroughly interesting read, though some pages don't stand up to rough toddler handling. Absolutely superb though and well worth tracking down. 

Charlotte's best bit: The Tooth Fairy (she seems to be a bit prematurely obsessed by the tooth fairy at the moment). 

Daddy's favourite bit: The Feegee Mermaid (eugh!)

Rating: 5 out of 5

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Happy New Year to all and welcome back to ReadItDaddy after a brief break. The first review of 2011 takes a look at Zoo by Anthony Browne. 

Browne is a modern master of the surreal. As Children's Laureate you have to wonder what sort of influence the man would have over the nation's youth. His illustrations are often quietly disturbing, but in a good way (I think). 

In Zoo, Browne tackles the thorny subject of animal conservation and in particular, one family's attitude to a simple visit to London Zoo. The characters may feel a bit cliched (why is it always the dads that are portrayed as grumpy?) but the underlying message of the book hits home like a sledgehammer. Are zoos for animals or people?

Great dialogue and superbly bonkers illustrations as you'd expect from a Browne book. 

Charlotte's best bit: The monkey hats.

Daddy's favourite bit: The sneaky hidden human / animal hybrids that look like escapees from the Island of Dr Moreau

Rating: 4 out of 5

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